At the end of last semester, then-candidate for president of Columbia College Student Council, Daphne Chen, CC ’14, suggested a merger between CCSC and Engineering Student Council. A resolution to form the task force passed both councils.
But the primary objective of the task force will no longer be to explore the possibility of a merger between CCSC and ESC. Instead, it will study how CCSC and ESC interact and overlap. The task force deliberations might ultimately recommend a merger, but council members said that this is not the main goal.
“The committee was called ‘the merger committee,’ and basically that was a committee that was looking to be formed with an end goal in mind versus observing something to find an end goal,” ESC president Siddhant Bhatt, SEAS ’14, said.
Chen, who, as the only candidate, was elected president, cited a lack of feedback as one reason that the focus of the committee changed.
“It was introduced at the end of last year and not formalized enough, and we need more input,” she said. “This is something we’re going to move more slowly with, have a resolution, make sure council members get input.”
“The goals of the committee are, ‘Let’s look at how ESC is run, let’s look at how CCSC is run, where are we similar, where are we different, how can we be more efficient and effective,’” Chen said. “That could be a merger, it might not be a merger after all, it could be more liaisons, less liaisons, it could be whatever.”
Initially, motivation for a merger committee stemmed from student life similarities that CCSC members noticed.
“We live in the same buildings, eat in the same dining halls, and to some extent, kind of use the same buildings, such as Lerner,” Chen said.
However, there are cultural differences between the two colleges that could make a merger problematic.
“We have different pre-professional requirements, we have different career goals, we have different alumni, and we have a different culture,” Bhatt said. “The kinds of interactions within our student body are very different.”
While General Studies Student Council is not part of the plan to merge councils, President Hannah Germond, GS ’16, said that GSSC is “very interested in being part of the discussion to understand what they’re going through.”
“We can see the goals they have, which seem to be similar, and that’s why they’re considering the option,” she said. “We fully support them in that step, for us right now being in that conversation as it moves forward organically. “
Council members said that one of the main reasons why GSSC was not initially invited to join merger discussions was because the General Studies student population is largely comprised of nontraditional undergraduates.
“We are commuters, we are families, we are working students, working families, military veterans trying to integrate back into the community, musicians, artists,” Germond said.
No attempts have been made to include Barnard’s Student Government Association in this new committee.
“SGA is just very different,” Chen said. “GS has actually reached out to us because they wanted to sit in on discussions and see what we’re doing. They’re a little bit more different then we are, but have some similarities.”
While no concrete goals have been set as to which changes—if any—will occur in council interactions, the committee hopes to improve council interactions.
“Our perspective and our goal is to analyze the student governance we have here,” Bhatt said. “The committee is still figuring out its exact goal, but be it unified governance or CCSC-ESC governance, those are different conversations that are happening right now.”